The Maryland Terrapins already have an ACC victory after defeating Boston College on December 12, and technically have a leg-up in the conference. Georgia Tech has had an up-and-down first part of the season with losses to Dayton, Ole Miss, St. John’s and Vanderbilt, with a solid victory over Illinois mixed in. The two teams take on one another Saturday in what could be a crucial early ACC-season match-up where conference tournament seeding could be on the line.
Maryland and Tech both have nine wins this season, but neither team can really point to anything that would stand out to the NCAA selection committee. This is why a game like Saturday’s is so important to both teams. It is likely any ACC team that will make it into the NCAA tournament will have to at least hover around the .500-mark in conference play. The ACC plays 18 in-conference games and that means getting any win against a non-ranked team is key because having a bad-looking loss will hurt teams dramatically. Maryland lucked out with only having Syracuse, Duke and North Carolina on its schedule once. Georgia Tech will have to deal with Duke twice. On paper, for both schools, those games look like losses and already put both in a hole. Maryland also has the tough task of taking on Florida State twice. Georgia Tech only has the Seminoles once, but it is in Tallahassee.
Both teams also need to find an identity and not having one this late into the year is an obvious problem. Maryland has the talented, but inconsistent, Dez Wells to hopefully rely on. Georgia Tech is averaging 40 rebounds per game, but only scores 72 points per game. In the ACC, where teams can really rack up the scoreboard, Tech must hope its rebounding edge will be enough to slow down opponents. This is where leading rebounder Robert Carter, Jr. (9.3 RPG) becomes such a major component. The sophomore forward must contain the boards on both ends so Tech gets rolling on offense quickly and gets as many second-chance opportunities as possible.
It may be early for Maryland and Georgia Tech, but both teams better come ready to play Saturday because neither team wants to look back on January 4, just to ask, “what if?”
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